Plus critters, health, and more.
First, via United Press International, a major development:
New York state bans fracking
New York state on Wednesday banned the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a means of extracting natural gas after a years-long study by environmental and health officials.
There had been an indefinite moratorium placed on fracking in the state since 2008 when then-N.Y. Gov. David Paterson ordered a review on the safety of the controversial process.
N.Y. State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Wednesday declared he wouldn’t be comfortable if his own children were to live near a fracking site.
“I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” he said during a year-end meeting of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet.
From Al Jazeera America, implications:
New York fracking ban reverberates nationally
- Activists say the ban, announced by Gov. Cuomo Wednesday, will embolden the anti-fracking movement in several states
The news took even the most seasoned environmental activists by surprise: after years of review, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that New York State would ban hydraulic fracturing.
“I can barely contain myself,” said Nadia Steinzor, the eastern coordinator for national non-profit Earthworks. “Even though Cuomo recently said he was going to make a clear decision, we were not expecting something as exciting and straightforward as this.”
Activists hope that Cuomo’s decision will spark more bans across the country. “The fact that they took such a clear conclusion on these health risks sends a very strong signal that will reverberate nationwide about the risks to water, land and health,” Steinzor said.
From EcoWatch, more reinforcement:
Families Forced to Flee Their Homes From Out-of-Control Leak at Fracking Well
More than two dozen families have been forced to flee their homes in Monroe County in eastern Ohio as natural gas poured from a leak at an unused fracking well, the C0lumbus Dispatch revealed.
According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle, crews lost control of the well Saturday and have not yet been able to stop the leak. Families were evacuated from homes within a 1.5-mile radius of the well near the Ohio River. “There’s still a steady stream of natural gas coming from the wellhead,” said McCorkle.
Texas-based Triad Hunter, which owns the drilling site, released a statement saying it had “experienced a loss of control of a well, the Stalder 3UH, located in Monroe County, Ohio. The previously drilled and completed Stalder 3UH well had been temporarily plugged and abandoned in preparation for the drilling of three additional Utica horizontal wells on the Stalder pad. However, despite numerous precautionary measures taken in connection with the temporary plugging and abandonment operation, the well began to flow uncontrollably while recommencing production operations. Triad Hunter personnel were removing the well’s night cap flange when a pressure disruption occurred. They attempted to bolt back down this equipment but were not able to safely do so prior to natural gas flowback.”
From the Ecologist, more fracking woes, potentially much more devastating:
With sub-$60 oil, fracking and tar sands losses threaten the whole financial system
A new financial crisis is threatening to dwarf the ‘subprime’ mortgage debacle, writes Paul Mobbs. Cheap money from central banks has fuelled some $1.3 trillion of risky investments in high-cost ‘unconventional’ oil and gas. Now, with oil sinking below $60, all that paper is turning to junk – and that’s putting the entire economic system at risk.
Brought about by the recent fall in oil prices, investors are beginning to review the economics of unconventional oil and gas. For the last few years there have been a number of damning reports about the economics of unconventional fossil fuels.
Now it seems those long-ignored observations are being taken seriously by the money-lenders of Wall Street.
Deck the halls with. . .Whoa! WTF? Via the Guardian:
Toxic chemicals found in majority of holiday decorations
A new study tested seasonal products from retailers Walmart, Target and CVS. Two-thirds contained substances linked to cancer, learning disabilities and other health problems
A range of seasonal holiday products containing high levels of toxic chemicals are being sold by top retailers, including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Lowe’s, CVS and Dollar Tree, according to a new study.
Researchers for the environmental non-profit The Ecology Center tested 69 seasonal holiday products and found that two-thirds contained one or more hazardous chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems.
Purchased at seven retail stores in southeast Michigan, researchers tested beaded and tinsel garlands, artificial wreaths and greenery, stockings, figurines and other tabletop decorations, and gift bags. The study identified lead, flame retardants, tin compounds and phthalates, among other hazardous substances. These have been variously linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.
Measles on the rise in South Africa, via StarAfrica:
S/Africa on measles alert
South Africa’s five provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape have been hit by measles, Health Ministry spokesman Joe Maila confirmed on Tuesday.
Some 49 laboratory stations confirmed measles cases had been noted since the beginning of this year, with the majority of the cases being reported in the Northern Cape Province which has recorded 18 measles cases to date, Maila said.
He said the ministry was working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to contain the virus and ensure that it would not spread further.
“Indeed, there is a breakout of measles in South Africa. However, we are doing everything (possible) to make sure that we contain it so that it should not spread at the level that would get people worried,” he added.
Global Times covers the tragic:
Village votes to expel HIV-positive child
- Expert: needs care ‘immediately’
An 8-year-old boy was allegedly facing expulsion from a village in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province for being HIV-positive, news portal people.com.cn reported on Wednesday.
More than 200 villagers, including the boy’s grandfather, in Shufangya village, Liqiao township, signed an agreement on December 7 agreeing to expel the boy in an effort to “protect villagers’ health.”
Kunkun (pseudonym), the boy, was found to be HIV-positive in 2011 when he received treatment for minor injuries, according to his grandfather, surnamed Luo.
Luo, 69, said that the HIV virus was transmitted to the boy from his mother.
From the Associated Press, corporate killings:
14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak
In the biggest criminal case ever brought in the U.S. over contaminated medicine, 14 former owners or employees of a Massachusetts pharmacy were charged Wednesday in connection with a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people.
The nationwide outbreak was traced to tainted drug injections manufactured by the now-closed New England Compounding Pharmacy of Framingham.
Barry Cadden, a co-founder of the business, and Glenn Adam Chin, a pharmacist who was in charge of the sterile room, were hit with the most serious charges, accused in a federal racketeering indictment of causing the deaths of 25 patients in seven states by “acting in wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood” of death or great bodily harm.
Among other things, Cadden, Chin and others are accused of using expired ingredients, failing to properly sterilize drugs and failing to test them to make sure they were pure. The other defendants were charged with such crimes as fraud and interstate sale of adulterated drugs.
From the Guardian, GMO incrementalism?:
Australian organic regulator pushes for GM-tainted crops to retain certification
- Move would protect farmers from losing their organic certification because of accidental contamination
One of the bodies that regulates Australian organic standards is pushing to allow crops that are accidentally contaminated with genetically modified material to retain their organic certification, in a move that would bring Australia in line with European regulators.
Under current Australian organic standards, products lose organic certification if they contain any level of GM material.
That’s what happened to Western Australian farmer Steve Marsh, who took his neighbour Mark Baxter to the WA supreme court claiming GM pollen from Baxter’s farm caused him to lose organic certification on part of his property. Marsh lost the case and has lodged an appeal.
But regulator Australian Certified Organic (ACO) has applied to the Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council (OISCC) to change the standards to allow a minimum level of “advantageous contamination” in organic crops, so long as GM material is not detectable in the end product.
Reuters covers more GMO politicking:
U.S, China making progress on biotech crop talks: USDA’s Vilsack
The United States and China are making progress in talks over Beijing’s acceptance of new biotechnology for crops, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Wednesday.
The countries are “moving toward an understanding of how we might be able to establish a strategic dialogue on biotechnology,” Vilsack told Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in a bilateral meeting in Chicago.
Biotech crops are a key trade issue between the countries because China has rejected more than 1 million tons of U.S. corn containing traces of a type of genetically modified corn, Agrisure Viptera, in the past year. The strain, developed by Syngenta AG, is approved for planting in the United States but not for import by Beijing.
From the Guardian, resistance to the neoliberal environmental agenda:
Italy says it will oppose EU plans to scrap environment law
- Eleven member states signed letter opposing withdrawal of draft EU law on air quality and waste
Plans by European policymakers to scrap a draft EU law on air quality and waste send a “negative signal” about Europe’s ambition to curb climate change and governments will challenge them, the Italian environment minister said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the European commission laid out its legislative plans for 2015, saying it would focus on priorities such as jobs and economic growth. At the same time, it planned to withdraw some proposals made by the previous EU executive, including on improving air quality and cutting waste.
Environment minister Gian Luca Galletti of Italy, holder of the rotating EU presidency, was one of 11 EU ministers who signed a letter to the commission saying they opposed plans to tear up environmental legislation. He told journalists the opposition would continue.
After the jump, climatic grounds for pick-me-up angst, the U.S. Southwest looks to replenish a critical reservoir, oceans now come with a plastic lining?, Obama saves a bay — at least for now, Peruvian environmental murders, the tragic price of Chinese ivory hunger, the Navajo coal problem, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and yet another leak, and a singularly bad timing problem, bad news for Japan’s power customer, another nuclear plant moves closer to a restart, and more ratepayer woes. . . Continue reading